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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Learning Basic Math Facts

As I am sure that you have noticed, we are really beginning to focus on learning basic addition and subtraction facts. Some of us are just beginning to learn them while others of us are much more comfortable with them. This is such an important skill to practice at this age. Familiarity with the basic addition and subtraction facts will make such a difference in your child's math career. I know I have mentioned this before but I have taught grades 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 (including Algebra). I can tell you that those students who had a solid foundation with their basic facts were so much more ready to tackle new math concepts and to use those basic facts to solve more complicated problems.  Now is the time to practice those facts with your child for a few minutes each day. We have begun to create sets of Fact Triangles (flashcards) at school and at home that your child can use to help with practicing basic facts. You can also quiz your child on facts as you are driving in the car or play various games both online and off to practice (rules for one game you can play are below). You can use whatever method you and your child enjoy. It's just important to work at it a little bit each day and to keep it fun and interesting.

Having said all of that, I do want to emphasize that what I feel is most important for students to learn in math is how and why things (like addition) work the way that they do. I want to develop their mathematical thinking and problem solving skills. If I had to choose between learning basic facts and developing mathematical thinking, I would absolutely choose mathematical thinking. Thankfully we don't have to make this choice. I will, however, always focus more on mathematical thinking in class and spend smaller amounts of time learning the basic facts. In our every day lives, we have so many tools at our disposal that can help with basic facts but we don't have tools that can do the deeper thinking and understanding for us so that is where my focus be.

Addition Top-It

The game is played with a deck of number cards, 4 cards for each number 0-9. (This can be a regular deck of cards with the face cards removed.) As many as four children can play, but at first, children should play the two-player game.

1. Shuffle the deck and place it on the desk with the cards face down.

2. At each turn, players turn over two cards and call out the sum. Players should check each other's sums.

3. The player with the higher sum takes all the cards. In case of a tie, players turn over two more cards and call out the sum. The player with the higher sum takes all the cards from both plays.

4. Play continues until there are fewer than 4 cards left in the deck. The player who took more cards wins.

After I had written this post, I ran across this article about learning basic facts that I thought you might find interesting, too:

Learn math without fear, Stanford expert says

Reading ~ Read a good book or two.
Math ~ Home Link 6.8 Counting Coins

We have library tomorrow. Please help your child remember to return his or her books.

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